Keep your car flushed



It sure seems like a long time since I wrote a column—hope I remember how.


It’s wintertime, and for the most part, our cars stay in the garage waiting for nice weather. Of course, if you have a LaSalle, it doesn’t matter. They go anywhere, anytime. This is the time when we can tinker with our cars to make our summer season more enjoyable, therefore, I thought a few tips on “pre-tour-season” preparations might be in order.


            First of all, let’s look at anti-freeze. In the ’40s and earlier, cars were engineered to take two types of anti-freeze. There was basically alcohol (trade name) Zerone, which was cheaper, but due to evaporation, it needed to be replenished throughout the winter months.


            The second type was called “permanent” and was primarily ethylene glycol and went under trade names such as Zerex and Prestone, et al. The engineers made sure the owner’s manual gave explicit instructions to flush the cooling system thoroughly in the spring and to use only water during the summer months. This was to clear out the impurities from the water as well as the purifiers (primarily chlorine).


            Today, the modern “permanent” anti-freeze is much improved, however, the water we get from the tap is usually more heavily chlorinated along with other additives such as fluoride. These have a bleaching action that tends to dissolve lubricants and wash them away; hence, easier to rust and form buildups in the cooling system and cause more wear to the moving parts and seals in the water pump.


            This is particularly true on cars that sit idle for extended periods. The best way to reduce these tendencies is not to use tap water, but instead, use nothing but inexpensive distilled water. The additional cost for our cars at most is under three dollars.


            Modern anti-freeze is designed to be used all year long. As a matter of fact, a mixture of 50 percent quality anti-freeze will give better cooling than any other blend. Also, the boiling point is considerably higher. This is even more important at our altitude, where water will boil at a different temperature.


            The bottom line is, change your coolant every winter or spring. This generally costs less than 20 bucks and is “darned” cheap insurance.



While you’re at it, check the adjustments on your belts—they can loosen on their own over a period of time. They also tend to glaze a bit. If you can, the belts should be removed and inspected (replace them if brittle or cracking).


A good cleaning and light scrubbing with steel wool on the running surface and a treatment with Varn Rubber Rejuvenator will greatly improve the efficiency of your belts. If you want to improve the looks of your belts, a little black shoe dye (not polish) will do wonders.


            When you put your belts back on, snug them up but do not overtighten! They should only be tight enough not to slip by hand. If you overtighten the belts, you can cause excessive wear on the water pump bearings and seals (about 100 bucks), knock out fan bearings, and take the fan out of balance—this can be very costly.


            Also, you can cause serious and expensive damage to the generator. It cannot be stressed too much—Do Not Overtighten the Belts!



At this time, you should also check the hoses and clamps.


            If you have hoses that do not feel firm, there is a good chance you may have inner linings coming loose. Don’t take chances and don’t forget the lower hose. It may be the hardest to get to, but it is very important. If you have a good water pump and the least amount of restriction anywhere in the cooling system, this lower hose can collapse at highway speed and you have instant overheating.



This is also a good time to change the oil. To get the most out of an oil change, do it right.


            These precious old cars of ours need and appreciate more than a corner gas station quickie change. First of all, add a pint of cleaner to the crankcase, such as Marvel Mystery Oil, Rislone, Wynn’s or such—if nothing else, kerosene or diesel fuel.


            Start the car and let it run at fast idle (1,000 rpm) for about 20 minutes. Make sure it gets warmed up well (not overheated), even if you need to partially cover the radiator.


            Shut it down and immediately open the drain plug, let it drain until the engine cools down—at least an hour. Put the plug back and fill with good oil.


            Don’t forget the filter if you have one. Remember, in addition to lubricating moving parts, your oil is a vehicle for cleaning the engine innards and removal of excess heat.


            Well, that should take care of one weekend so we’ll put out the light over Walt’s Workbench for now and maybe next time we can talk about fuel systems.


Happy touring,